Of all the risks we anticipate and prep for, an EMP event is perhaps the most terrifying. A single well-placed EMP bomb could destroy much/most of the electronics in the entire US – oh, and in most of Canada too, resulting in an instant collapse of almost everything.
EMP events can come from two different sources. One is a deliberate act by an aggressor nation or terrorist group, launching a specific EMP causing device and activating it high above the US. This is, unfortunately, very much easier to do than you might think – an EMP device is nothing more than a regular atomic bomb on a regular ICBM, possibly with some modifications to enhance its EMP yield, and detonated at high altitude rather than close to the ground.
The other source is at least as fickle as the first, and whereas there have been no deliberate EMP attacks by people, this other source has attacked us repeatedly with EMP events. We refer, of course, to the sun.
The sun is not a steady constant energy source. Like a regular fire, it has variable hot spots and cold spots, and sort of analogous to a fire sometimes sparking out some embers that might land on our carpet, so too does the sun sometimes eject massive bursts of energy that have the same EMP effects on electronics. We talk about the dangers of solar storms in a series of articles here.
There have been solar storms in the past that were sufficiently strong to destroy electronics, but they have happily occurred prior to our current total dependence on micro-miniaturized electronics. The most significant past event that we’re aware of was in 1859, and was so extreme that it melted telegraph wires across Europe and North America. We can only guess as to how many past events there have been, because prior to about that time, there were no electrical devices for solar storms to affect.
If a solar storm similar to the 1859 event occurred now, it would of course destroy much of the world’s electronics.
In order for this to occur, two things need to both be in place. The first, of course, is for a sufficiently strong solar storm to erupt. The second is for this solar storm to intercept the earth in its orbit.
The good news is that it requires an unusually large solar storm to do the sort of damage we need to be concerned about, and the further good news is that the earth is a tiny spec, 93 million miles from the sun. Most storms pass harmlessly by, and come nowhere near the earth.
But, as we know, sometimes they don’t miss. Sometimes, as in 1859, they do intercept the earth. A not so strong smaller storm also hit (but only parts of Canada) in 1989.
Sooner or later, a massive sized solar storm will hit the earth again, and it will destroy much/most of our society’s infrastructure. When will this occur?
No-one knows the answer to that, any more than anyone can tell you how many times you need to roll a pair of dice before you get a double-six. But we do know, as this article reports, that just a couple of weeks ago we narrowly missed a solar storm that would have destroyed us, and as we report in this earlier article, experts say there is a 12% chance of being hit by such a storm sometime in the next ten years.
Oh, and as we report in this article, 2013 is a year of greater than normal solar storm activity.
Back to the dice. We don’t know when we’ll get the double-six, but we do know that it will appear sooner or later. Similarly, we don’t know when the next 1859 style solar storm will hit us, but we do know that, sooner or later, it will. Emphasize the sooner, because experts suggest there’s one chance in eight (ie 12%) it will happen in the next decade. How lucky do you feel?
Tell that to your friends the next time they poke fun at your prepping. Depending on where you live, there’s more chance of a solar storm induced EMP destroying every part of their lives than there is of an earthquake, tsunami, or volcano. Many people fear these other types of relatively minor and essentially regional disasters; perhaps it is because the EMP event is so huge that it overloads our ability to comprehend the consequences and we find it easier to ignore it than to confront it.
That’s why we are preppers. We choose to confront these challenges and prepare for them. We should encourage our friends and family to do the same.